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Our Crazy Balkanized Curricular Media Space
July 14, 2010 - 10:22pm

"The reason we're in this crazy balkanized media space is that IP law has stymied innovation around media. Put it this way - if you want to write on someone's webpage, or just post a picture you just do it. But if you want to upload a video or edit. not so easy, right? Because media - until more recently, has been so encumbered by proprietary video formats and delivery standards that it just hasn't been a first class citizen on the web."

--From an e-mail from Leah Belsky,Sr. Director of Strategic Development,

Leah from Kaltura is exactly correct. The world is moving towards video as an essential element of communication, collaboration, and content. In higher ed, we struggle to to effectively and efficiently utilize media in our courses.

Some of the things that we'd like to do, but are limited and inhibited from accomplishing due to copyright restrictions and incompatible file formats and platforms include:

--Easily allow faculty (and students) to discover campus created, owned or licensed media and utilize for teaching: All of our institutions are creating tons of media each day. One big source is lecture/presentation capture systems, recording everything from classes to screencasts to symposiums and talks. Academic libraries buy media content for collections that can be used for teaching. Campus communications and media production units create tons of video content. Yet, due to a combination of copyright restrictions and technological barriers it is impossible to discover and utilize this media for teaching. We can't search a web front-end for existing media, and pop that video into our LMS. Students can't search for the learning content they need. It is a challenge to create and display just the clips that we want.

--Upload media into our courses the same way we upload documents: We know how to upload and share Word documents, PowerPoints, Excel spreadsheets, etc. etc. etc. The LMS works great for static documents. The LMS breaks down, however, when we want to upload and share media files. We'd like if faculty and students could upload media in any format, and then have that media automatically transcoded to be available for viewing on any browser or device. We'd like if the uploader could easily set permissions and restrictions. We'd like if other people could tag that video.

--Encourage and support students (and faculty) in creating media by mashing-up and sharing existing and original video: The current situation makes it difficult for students to manipulate with and create around video content that our institutions own in our libraries. Video is locked down with DRM restrictions and scary threats of lawsuits. Even if the raw video can be made available for mashing up, we don't have any robust cross-platform (or Web based) editing tools.

--Encourage and support our students (and faculty) in sharing their video creations: Loading up student (or faculty) video to the LMS is a poor solution. The LMS was not designed to play video. Videos are locked up in the LMS, unavailable to other people at the institution or throughout the world. There is no guarantee that uploaded videos will play on all operating systems or browsers, much less mobile devices.

I highly recommend that you make time to talk to the folks at the companies who are trying to think through and solve the campus media issues. The companies I know best are Kaltura, ShareStream and Ensemble. I'm impressed with all 3 companies and the people who run them (for different reasons). Am I missing anyone? Should I learn more about the OpenCast project? What are Accordent, Adobe and Cisco doing in this space? JMUTube?

What curricular media challenges are you experiencing?

I'll be discussing the curricular media management challenge at the Wainhouse Research Collaboration Summit in Cambridge, MA on July 20/21. Please say hello if you are in attendance.


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